5 Backcountry Cabins for Any Season
You don’t need to wait until the deep snow arrives to settle in at one of Vermont’s backcountry cabins. Make a reservation, throw on a backpack and head out on the trail.
Bolton’s Bryant Camp & Bolton Lodge
Set high among the alpine forests above Bolton Valley’s Nordic and alpine ski trails, are two cabins built in the 1930s by volunteers with the Burlington chapter of the Green Mountain Club. The Bolton Lodge was designed after the cottages of Wales and Ireland, with a stone foundation, stucco walls and bunks for 12.
The nearby Bryant Camp has a sleeping loft for six and features plain wooden construction. Located near both the Long Trail and the Catamount Trail, these two cabins have been popular overnight spots for hikers heading north to Mount Mansfield or south towards Camel’s Hump and for skiers exploring Bolton Valley’s alpine and Nordic ski trails.
The two cabins can also be a starting point for backcountry skiers traveling from Bolton Valley to the Trapp Family Lodge, by way of the Catamount Trail. Restoration work started this year and both will have new bunks, wood stoves, shelves and cooking spaces when finished. Volunteers finished work Bryant Camp this season while Bolton Lodge might wait until next year.
Accommodations at Bryant Camp are available by prior reservation through the Green Mountain Club’s website greenmountainclub.org. Overnight rates are $95 per night Friday through Sunday, $75 per night Monday through Thursday. Winter guests are required to purchase a Bolton Valley Nordic Ski Pass for the duration of their stay. Free overnight parking is available at Bolton Valley Nordic Center, 4302 Bolton Valley Access Road, Bolton Valley, Vt. Allow approximately one hour to approach Bryant Camp on skis or snowshoes. For more information about the cabin and to make reservations, visit greenmountainclub.org. For more information about the ski trails, visit boltonvalley.com. Find out more at greenmountainclub.org.
The Hadsel-Mares cabin at Wheeler Pond in Barton, Vt.
For a getaway in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, reserve a night in one of two secluded cabins on the shores of Wheeler Pond at the edge of Willoughby State Forest in Barton, Vt. While the Beaver Dam Cabin is closed for repairs and could open as soon as next year, the neighboring 650 sq. ft. Hadsel-Mares Cabin has a simple design with a wood stove and sleeping space for six in an elevated loft. While lacking electricity, running water and cell service, you’ll have a massive outdoor playground, including over 40 miles of trails in the Willoughby State Forest (including trails to the summits Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor) and, in the fall, paddling on ponds and lakes. In the winter, bring your skis to explore the backcountry glades developed by the Northeast Kingdom Backcountry Coalition in the Willoughby State Forest or go ice climbing on the cliffs above Lake Willoughby. Reservations are $65 per night or $45 per night if you book for more than seven days with 30 percent off for GMC members. Visit greenmountainclub.org for reservation information.
Mount Mansfield’s Stone Hut, Stowe, Vt.
In late September, a crane lifted a new roof onto the sandblasted stone walls of Vermont’s most popular backcountry cabin, Stowe’s Stone Hut, readying it for guests this winter following last season’s devastating fire. Built in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the hut was outfitted with a large stone hearth, a wood stove and wooden bunks that could sleep 12. Reserved for trail keepers in the summer, but open to the public in the winter, the hut was so popular it took winning a place in a lottery system to get a night there. For those lucky enough to land a stay, the prize was often first tracks down Nosedive or Goat at Stowe, or the numerous backcountry lines off the summit.
On December 23, 2015, Timothy and George Carpenter (whose parents, Jake and Donna founded Burton) went up to prepare the cabin for some friends who were arriving later, stoked the fire and left the wood stove door open. It’s a cautionary tale: the friends never arrived, a piece of wet wood leaning against the stove caught fire and destroyed much of the original structure.
There was a huge public outcry and thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Carpenters, as well as others, the hut is being restored. This August, the Vermont Department of Forest Parks and Recreation awarded a $276,500 bid to Morrisville builder Donald P. Blake Inc. who by press time in late September, already had the roof, floor and walls rebuilt. The cabin, which is used by trail keepers in the summer, has only been available for rental during the winter for $225 a night. Check vtstateparks.com for updates and reservations.
Bell Gates Cabin, Braintree, Vt.
Set into the mountains surrounding the central Vermont town of Braintree, off Route 12A is a backcountry skier’s paradise. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers with the Rochester Area Sport Trails Alliance, you can explore the beautifully crafted glades off of 2,901-foot Skidoo Mountain and follow a skin-track back to the top to earn your turns all day long. After a long day, this winter you’ll be able to retire to the Bell Gates Cabin, a fully restored cabin with a new woodstove that will sleep up to ten. It’s available on a first-come, first-served basis and you have to locate it yourself. Visit rastavt.org for maps and information.
Merck Forest Cabins, Rupert, Vt.
For a secluded getaway in the southern Vermont forest, you can book one of eight cabins at 3,162-acre Merck Forest & Farmland Center in Rupert, Vt. The cabins sleep between two and twelve and are furnished with tables, woodstoves, bunks, porches and rocking chairs. Some have lofted bunks and space for tents nearby. These cabins are hiking distance from the visitor’s center and have views of hay pastures and surrounding mountains in southern Vermont. Come with friends for a weekend of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing on over 30 miles of trails that water through 3,000 acres. Cabins are $50 to $75 in the summer and $65 to $90 in the fall, winter and spring. Head to merckforest.org to book.